Criticism regarding the Nobel Peace Prize and their Controversial Laureates

There are millions of prizes presented around the world. However, only a few are internationally distinguished. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the person who has ”done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. But the award, established in 1985, has frequently attracted controversy since its founding by Alfred Nobel, the famous dynamite inventor who made his fortune selling firearms.

Nobel Peace Prize controversies often reach beyond the academic community. Criticism that have been levelled against some of the awards include accusations that they were politically motivated, premature, or guided by a faulty definition of what constitutes work for peace.

Both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were nominated in 1939, while Joseph Stalin was put forward for the prize in 1945 and 1948. And even some of those who have gone on to win the award have prompted criticism.

The Nobel Prizes are divided into five categories: Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. There are certain rules and regulations encircling Nobel prizes that should be followed by others, some of them being-

Nobel winners must be alive and a Nobel cannot be shared by more than three people. There’s no limit to how many prizes a person can receive. Organizations can get them, too. The Nobel panel invite thousands of people each year to nominate recipients. The Norwegian Nobel Committee, appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, handles the Peace Prize. Nominators don’t need to be invited, but have to be members or advisers of the committee, previous Nobel laureates, and people working in relevant fields (social sciences, peace research, etc.), national politicians, or members of international courts.

Depending on the prize, nominators may fill out a form or write a letter. But one can’t nominate himself/herself. The relevant committee often aided by advisers, either votes for a winner or submits recommendations to a larger assembly. All decisions are final.

This year, the award is 8 million Swedish krona (roughly $931,000 US) which can be split up to three people. There’s one exception, though. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded at a separate event in Oslo, Norway.

Alfred Nobel never elucidated why he wanted certain prizes given by the Swedes and the peace one by the Norwegians. The rule that no more than three people can share a Nobel has made for some good disputes in science, especially in fields that require a lot of cooperation. It’s not that very different for someone to get left out.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar, won the prize during her imprisonment in 1991 for “her peaceful fight for democracy and human rights.” However, her lack of action over the persecution of the Rohingya ethnic minority has prompted calls for the prize to be revoked. Among her critics is Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, who highlighted her lack of action to stop the violence and human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims being forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. In a letter to Suu Kyi, his “dear beloved sister,” Tutu wrote: “If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep.”
  • Israeli leader Menachem, the 1978 winner for the Camp David accord, declared Lebanon’s invasion in 1982.
  • Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres for the Oslo Accords, but later led the second most violent intifada against the Israeli occupation.
  • The Soviet leader Mihail Gorbachev, who won the Nobel prize in 1990 for his pacifying role at the end of the Cold War, sent tanks in 1991 to stop the independence of the Baltic countries.
  • Henry Kissinger shared it in 1973 with the Vietnamese revolutionary Le Duc Tho for the attempt to end the war on the Asian peninsula. Le Duc, the only person to have refused the prize, accused Washington of breaking the ceasefire. The war ended in 1975 with the fall of Saigon.
  • Former US President Barack Obama said he was surprised to win the prize in 2009, just a few months after starting his presidency. When he arrived in Oslo to receive the award at the end of the year, Obama had already tripled the presence of the American military personnel in Afghanistan.
  • The decision to award the prize to the European Union in 2012 was also controversial. At that time, Brussels was imposing harsh financial conditions on Greece, which many economists blamed for destroying lives.

  • The Nobel Peace Prize is probably the most controversial Nobel of all —and not just because Mahatma Gandhi never got one. There’s almost always controversy around the Peace Prize — in part because it’s so political. What’s more, some politicians win the prize for certain peace-promoting actions, but then engage in conflict later on (or have engaged in conflict previously). That can get messy.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize has frequently caused controversy. One reason is that many Laureates have been Contemporary and highly controversial political actors, another is that the Prizes in many instances have increased public focus on international or national conflicts. In the latter case, the awards have often been seen by local authorities as “interference” in national matters. On some occasions there has even been strong criticism against the Norwegian Nobel Committee itself and the way its members are selected.
  • Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize, although he was nominated five times between 1937 and 1948. In 1948 Gandhi received six letters of nomination and was on the short list for the Peace Prize but he was assassinated on 30 January 1948, two days before the closing date for nominations. The Nobel Committee decided against awarding the prize, saying the laureate could only be awarded posthumously if he/she died after the Committee’s decision had been made Decades later, a Nobel Committee publicly declared its regret for the omission. Geir Lundestad, Secretary of Norwegian Nobel Committee in 2006 said, “The greatest omission in our 106-year history is undoubtedly that Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace prize. Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace prize, whether Nobel committee can do without Gandhi is the question”. In 1948 (the year of Gandhi’s death) the Nobel Committee made no award, stating “there was no suitable living candidate”
  • The omission of Mahatma Gandhi has been particularly widely discussed, including in public statements by various members of the Nobel Committee The Committee has confirmed that Gandhi was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and, finally, a few days before his assassination in January 1948. The omission has been publicly regretted by later members of the Nobel Committee Secretary of Norwegian Nobel Committee in 2006 said, “The greatest omission in our 106-year history is undoubtedly that Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace prize. Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace prize, whether Nobel committee can do without Gandhi is the question” In 1948, following Gandhi’s death, the Nobel Committee declined to award a prize on the ground that “there was no suitable living candidate” that year. Later, when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee said that this was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi”


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